FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Japan Offers Reparation to Korean ‘Comfort Women’

The Japanese government recently agreed to pay $8.7 million to dozens of Korean women who were forced to become prostitutes serving Japanese soldiers. The payment is meant as compensation for their suffering. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his “deepest regrets” and “contrition” from deep in his heart to the victims.

Among the estimated 100,000 to 200,000 women recruited from different countries to serve Japanese soldiers, 80 to 90 percent were from Korea. Girls as young as 11 years-old were forced to serve between 5 and 40 soldiers a day, and almost 100 soldiers on weekends. Those who resisted were often beaten, burned or wounded. The abuse was such that many women took their lives. During the Japanese retreat many were left to starve or were executed to eliminate any trace of the atrocities they were subjected to by the Japanese military.

After the end of World War II, the government of Japan had insisted that the “comfort stations” were in fact private brothels that had been administered by private citizens. Only in 1993 did the government admit that the Japanese military had been “directly or indirectly” involved in establishment and operation of “comfort stations” and in the transportation of the women.

The first Korean former comfort woman to tell her story was Bae Bong Ki in 1980. Another comfort woman, Kim Hak Soon, who died in 1997, related in 1991 how she was abducted by Japanese soldiers when she was 17 years old, and forced to carry ammunition by day and serve as a prostitute by night. Her testimony sparked several other testimonies by women who were obliged to work as sexual slaves in military comfort stations. Evidence of such stations has already been found in the Koreas, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, New Guinea and Okinawa.

Illustrative of the ordeal comfort women went through is the testimony of Chung Seo Woon in the book titled “Making More Waves” (Beacon Press, Boston, 1997). Chung was an only child born in Korea to the family of a wealthy landowner. Because of his activities against colonial rule, her father was sent to prison and badly tortured. When she was 16 she was allowed to visit her father. The same Japanese official who allowed her to see her father later came to her house. He told her that if she went to work in Japan for two years her father would be released. Despite strong objections from her mother, she agreed to do so.

Chung was placed on a ship with many other girls and women. She was hopeful that at the end of the two years her father would be released from prison, as she had been told by the officer. After being taken to Japan, the women were sent to several other countries and a group of them left in each country. After reaching Jakarta, the group that included the young Chung was taken to a hospital where she was sterilized.

The group was then taken to Semarang, a costal city in Indonesia, and placed on a row of barracks. From then on they were obliged to perform sexual intercourse every day with dozens of soldiers and officers. In the process, she was forced to become an opium addict. Chung attempted to commit suicide, by swallowing malaria pills.

Two of her friends reported her to the authorities, she was revived, and, she remarks, “It was then that I made up my mind to survive and tell my story, what Japan did to us.” When the war ended and she returned home, she found her house deserted. From neighbors who came to help her she learned that her father had died while in prison. Her mother, humiliated by the Japanese soldiers’ attempt to rape her, committed suicide.

Chung decided to rid herself of her opium addiction. She was able to do this after eight months, and she worked hard to regain her dignity. She was never able to attain a normal sex life, but found companionship and care from a physician who had had a nervous breakdown after serving in the Japanese Army. In 1993, the Japanese government apologized to the comfort women, although it didn’t admit that the military actually coerced the women into serving against their will.

In November of 1994, an International Commission of Jurists stated that, “It is indisputable that these women were forced, deceived, coerced and abducted to provide sexual services to the Japanese military . . . [Japan] violated customary norms of international law concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity, slavery and the trafficking in women and children . . . Japan should take full responsibility now, and make suitable restitution to the victims and their families.”

Japan has made the right decision by apologizing and financially compensating the remaining victims of abuse by Japanese soldiers. However, the gesture only renders partial justice to the Korean “comfort women.” There are tens of thousands of Korean women who are not alive to claim it.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail